Caste in Japan: The Burakumin
Abstract

Abstract:

While most writing on caste emanates from South Asia, there are other countries and cultures that operate under this feudal yet enduring system, Japan being one of them. The Japanese group who bear this yoke are called the Burakumin, individuals who have for generations inherited their outcaste status largely through the professions of their ancestors. Access to these communities is not only extremely difficult for "outsiders" but is also fraught with contradictions, as support is welcomed but the interpretation of what is found is scrutinized for political correctness. The Burakumin are a creation of Japanese history, but the experience of discrimination is all too real. The research for this essay involved several years of engagement with numerous schools and community organizations throughout Japan in areas with large populations of Burakumin. In particular, my focus was on the teachers and scholars who had committed their lives to working with Burakumin youth while simultaneously educating the larger society of Japan in changing a feudal mindset. This paper presents narratives of some of these individuals and the reciprocal impact of their work on their lives and those with whom they worked.